Victory Parade -- He is Risen, Indeed! - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Victory Parade -- He is Risen, Indeed!

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed. 

In the Christian calendar, the past week runs the gamut of every feasible emotion.  From the exuberant shouts of joy and hope during the triumphant entry, to the nervous chatter as the teachings of the Christ created internal conflict among the people -- challenging the way things had always been done.  The Passover Seders were in full swing, the hope for the promised Messiah ever present. 


The Passover time was a moment when families would get together, remember, celebrate and hope.  It was a time when sacred scriptures were read, stories were shared.  A moment when the elders could distribute wisdom to the young.  A time when nationalistic passion for freedom rose to the surface.  A time when people looked both forward to what could be while enjoying the triumphs of the past Davidic kingdom.

The remembrance of those days began with the time all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were buried under an avalanche of water in the Red Sea. Just one of many ancient stories bantered around. (Exodus 15:2) The stories continued with the unlike tale of the shepherd who would become King.  David.  These conversations led to the persistent thought fleeting across the tongues of many – is this the week that we shall see victory?

King David.  The hero who arose and united a kingdom.  The ancient king, from whose seed the Messiah would arise, or so foretold the prophets.  The enigmatic king who was both a mighty warrior and a passionate worshiper.  The prudent king who built a kingdom but split his family.  The repentant king who, despite his many failures, sought forgiveness and pushed into a closer relationship with God.  The angst-filled king, who knew what it was like to be abandoned, forgotten, abused, and despised, but never let his faith in his God waiver.

This same element of Messianic hope is found in Psalm 118.  The ancient editors who compiled the psalms for public worship placed this into the middle of the 5th scroll (chapter 107-150). This Psalm combined the fervency of longed for hope within the silhouette of a royal thanksgiving poem.  In other words, these lyrics gave instructions on what a Victory Parade should look like when the Messiah returns.

In this psalm, success is not measured in the strengths of armies, the might of weapons, the skill and cunning of generals – but in the complete understanding of who and what of God.  This day, is the Lord’s day.  This day, is one the Lord has made.  And this day, we shall rejoice.

Please stand, as you are able, as we read aloud together a selection from Psalm 118: 14, 19-21.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
and I will go in and thank the Lord.
20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
and the godly enter there.
21 I thank you for answering my prayer
and giving me victory!

Over the course of the last week, many people have honored the events of Easter Week.  Some watch film reactions, such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.  Other participate in Easter Egg Hunts – representing the miracle of new birth and new life contained in seed form.  All of those activities are fine – but become meaningless if there is no focus on thanks for what Christ has done.  Traditions are important to hold onto memories, but if we are not careful, those same memories can become the prisons which trap us from seeing God’s future unfolding for our lives.

What should our response to His Resurrection be?  If we confine it to just a couple fun events around the Vernal Equinox, we miss the message.  Easter may be marked as one day on the calendar, but must be celebrated in our life, every single day of the year.  This prophetic Psalm reminds readers spread across the ages as to what the proper response is to victories in your life. A proper response to His Resurrection is revealed when we…

Take time to celebrate God in Worship.
Psalm 118:14-16 say this…
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
15 Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
16 The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!

Have you ever been in a locker room after a victory?  Have you ever been part of a pep rally?  Have you ever been in a room with co-workers when everybody is told they received a bonus?  Do you remember what happened on the day fighting ceased, when troops are rotated home, or families reunited?  There’s a celebration.  It’s party time!

It’s not mild.  It’s not cautious.  It’s raucous!  It’s loud!  It’s vibrant!  There are parades in the street, fireworks in the air.  If you can imagine that, you are just getting a glimpse of what this Psalm is all about.  It’s a Victory Parade! 

This passage hearkens back to the first Victory Parade – when the people of Israel made it across the Red Sea.  A party broke out!  Miriam burst into song.  The story of the crossing of the Red Sea began just hours before when the First Passover occurred.  All those who had placed the blood of the lamb upon the gates to their homes were saved.  Our communion celebration today receives its beginning in that story and this song.

This is where we can learn something from the Passover.  The celebration of the Passover is a victory parade done around a table of fellowship.  But sometimes victory parades aren’t always joyous.  Sometimes celebrations must be done in the darkness, in pain, and in sorrow.  “Next Year in Jerusalem” was a common phrase at the Passover for centuries.  The members of the Jewish and Christian diaspora longed for a time when the could be reunited in their homeland in victory. 
This seems incongruous.  How can you celebrate victory when circumstances around you shout desperation?

Eugene had things going for him, successful, accomplished, well-traveled, a good family.  And then at age 54, had a stroke.  How can you celebrate when you are in pain?  How can you accomplish everything you wanted to do when you are bedridden?  But it was in that condition of pain, from which he would pass away just two years later that he wrote his most famous song – a song of celebration, a song of victory.  A song of proclaiming something is true in the heavens when it may not look hopeful at the bedside.  Eugene Bartlett, paralyzed in his bed, broken in his spirit, could still sing with feeble voice – And Somehow Jesus came to me and brought the Victory!  Victory in Jesus!

Eugene discovered the response to the Victory of the Resurrection – Take time, even in the darkest of all days, to celebrate God in Worship.

Our second response we have to the Resurrection Story –  We exist to share His story.

Let me read several more verses from Psalm 118.
17 I will not die; instead, I will live
to tell what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not let me die.

For many people, we don’t think past this day what it means.  “I will live to tell what the LORD has done. We forget that the reason we live each day is because Christ gave us new life.

For those of us who have been Christians our whole life, we automatically substitute the word JESUS for the word LORD in this passage.  And that’s appropriate, because this is a Messianic Psalm.  But it’s much deeper than that, because the original setting is I will tell of what Jehovah God has done.  This is the Story.  It starts at creation when God said let there by light.  It continues at the cross when Jesus atoned for the penalty of sin which had torn the perfect relationship between the holy Godhead and his people.  It is completed in the Resurrection, affirming that we know can have life and life more abundantly.  This is great news!  It should not be buried under the fold, but trumpeted in twitter blasts, shared on Snapchat, and found on Facebook!  These verses encapsulate what Jesus told his disciples and command us to do:  The Great Commission – go into all the world, making disciples.

In a shocking story that quickly flitted around the Christian news services this week, the Barna Research group reported that 51% of American Christians did not know what the Great Commission was.  They did not know the primary purpose of the church.  Folks, the primary mission of the church is easy – You live to tell what the Lord has done!  You exist to tell what the Lord has done!  What has he done?

·       He has saved me from bondage
·       He has comforted me in sorrow
·       He has raised me up from sickness
·       He has restored my broken relationships.
·       He has loved me, even when I don’t love myself.
·       He has stood beside me in grief
·       He has calmed me in the storm

Each one of us has a story.  God is still writing that story.  Have you embraced His story?  Have you told his story?  There is a reason Christians share testimonies.  It’s not to puff them up in pride.  It’s not to relate all the bad things they’ve ever done in their life.  It’s to remember what Christ has brought them out of and to encourage others to join them in the most incredible journey of all.

Are you ready for the third response to the Resurrection?  We are to offer perpetual thanks in His presence (19-21)

The core of this psalm is rooted in Thanksgiving.  It’s a Victory Parade that starts out of the city and winds its way into through the gate.  Throngs of people clamor over themselves for a position to see and cheer.  Cloaks are cast down to cover muddy pot holes.  Leaves are stripped off trees and waved in exuberant celebration.  But the victorious one does not step down from his donkey and accept the gifts of the people.  No, thanks belong to God.  So, the parade winds itself through the narrow cobblestone streets and to the gates of the temple.  To the place where the Spirit of God resides.  To the house of worship.  Each of the gospel writers re-interpret this Psalm as being fulfilled on that Palm Sunday as Jesus entered in triumphal fashion.  And yes, Jesus did stop at the temple to offer thanksgiving – but found it filled with money changers instead.  A place designated for worshipful thanksgiving had turned into a greedy pit. 

But the parade was not over.  Even though some did not see the Via Dolorosa, the road to the cross as part of the parade, it was.  Because true thanksgiving can only come from the foot of the cross.  The prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden, his acceptance of the painful plan that lay hours ahead, was born out of a thankful spirit.

So, do we offer thanks in his presence?  Do we thank God every day for what he has done in our lives?  In our families lives?  Do we thank him for the mundane things?  Do we thank him for the awesome things?

Do you know why the ancient procession stopped in the temple?  It was so that the priests could offer a prayer of blessing upon them.  If you want to be blessed by God – begin by thanking Him for all that he has done!  Thank Him for giving you Victory.

You might say – I don’t have the victory!  I say stop.  Wait.  Take an inventory.  You might not have the full victory – but start to count the victories you do have.  Start to count the blessings you do see, one by one.  Pretty soon, you will see what God has done!

I have been reminded several times this past week how much negative comments cut to the core of our victory. Whether someone else says them, or you say them about your selves.  It takes about 5 positive affirmations to counteract a negative.  Most of the time we wallow in the 2 or 3 negatives in our lives – where we don’t see the current victory coming yet, and not on the victories that sustain the other 97% of our lives.  Want to change your perception?  Start claiming your victory.  Start stating the positives. Start giving thanks for what God has already done in your life.

The Fourth Response to the Resurrection – We anchor ourselves to His Embrace.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Jesus quoted this passage when he shared the parable of the tenants.  Found in all synoptic gospel -- in Mark 12. Matthew 21, and Luke 20 – this story challenges and confronts.  It sets out what is about to happen – that the caretakers who have been given everything by the landowner, will turn on the very one who wants to give them life – and put him to death instead.  Those actions however, do not go unpunished.

When we encounter Christ, we have two choices.  We can reject Him and walk our own way down the path towards destruction, or we can run to him and anchor ourselves into the foundation.  When we embrace his love and purpose for our lives, we have solid footing, knowledge that we can overcome anything that comes our way, and hope for the future.

When we are enfolded into his loving embrace, we can declare with fervor that...
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. (Psalm 91)

When you embrace Jesus Christ as your foundation, your risen savior, your all in all – then to paraphrase the Toy Story theme song…
You’ve got a friend in me,
We stick together and can see it through

Cause you've got a friend in me

Jesus will be your friend, your helper, and your guide who will never leave you, nor forsake you.  He is leading the Victory Parade and wants you to be right there beside Him!

Through Christ’s death on the cross, our sins were forgiven.
In His departure from the tomb, our victory was assured.

Jesus paid the penalty for our sinful human nature when he died on the cross.  Every sin we could think of every committing, past, present, or future – for all people – is forgiven because of Him.

But that’s not what made this a victory.  Death alone is no victory.  Victory is assured because in those three short days between Good Friday and Easter Morning, Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave.  He reminded the author of Sin, that the Creator is victorious.  Jesus reminded Satan himself that there is no power that can keep the Love of God away from His people.  Jesus came to set people free, to break chains of bondage, to restore broken lives, to heal hurting hearts, and to proclaim a song of victory.

The swelling of praise could not be contained in the bowels of the earth.  They reverberated until the very rocks cried out in praise and the stone shuddered away.  Now this is a victory parade!  Alleluia!

Let me close this service with a simple life change goal.  I’ll admit it – I adapted this phrase from the K-State cheers I heard when the hit the Sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball playoffs.  But I think it’s even better.

Every Day a Victory!

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!  The victory parade isn’t over. Jesus has given you the victory.  He wants you in the parade.  Are you ready?  Shall we pray.